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Mussende's prison now serves as health post

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In the town of Mussende itself, MSF does consultations in the MINSA (Ministry of Health) health post. The health post is located in a large, deteriorating building that was used during the war as a prison. In its new guise, an old jail cell, equipped with a table and two chairs, is being used as a consultation room.

The treatment area used to be the prison shower room. Now patients sit on the floor of the shower room as the nurses kneel beside them to clean wounds and bandage arms and legs. The health post was there before MSF intervened and it was likely chosen to be the clinic because it is one of the few buildings in the town with four walls and a partially usable roof. The facility is depressing. The rooms are very dark and it is not very conducive to medical care.

The local staff work without real medical equipment or supplies. MSF has started to support the local health administration by rehabilitating the Mussende health post, installing new furniture and medical equipment, supplying materials and medicines, training for the nurses and overall trying to improve the quality of the health services. The MSF doctor, a volunteer from the UK, now sits side-by-side with local nurses and does daily consultations.

As the nutritional situation is stabilising for the moment in Mussende, MSF is re-orienting its work to focus on basic health care for parts of the population that still remain vulnerable. Today, MSF has a mobile clinic that is doing consultations for the area up to 100 kilometres from Mussende.

Out of dozens of communities spread throughout this area, only five or six have access to basic health care through the poorly supplied and poorly equipped health post in Mussende. The health post lacks basic materials and medicines due to access problems from the capital of the province, Sumbe. There is still a lot of work to be done.

MSF is now concentrating its efforts on basic health care. But it is just the beginning. The people of Angola are starting to have hope for the future again but they will need basic conditions and assistance to help them along. But even now there are some bright spots.

Each Sunday in Mussende the FAA (Armed Forces of Angola) football team and the UNITA football team of the nearby Reception Area get together for a friendly game in the center of town. Only seven months ago they were fighting each other in the war.